Family Connection’s Johnson Honored with Big Voice for Children Award

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Gaye Smith and Tim Johnson at Big Voice Awards Event
Georgia Family Connection Partnership Executive Director Gaye Smith and Tim Johnson, executive director of Family Connction-Communities in Schools of Athens, at the 2012 Big Voices for Georgia’s Children Event

Tim Johnson, executive director of Family Connection-Communities in Schools of Athens, recently was named one of this year’s “Big Voices for Georgia’s Children.” The honor comes from Voices For Georgia’s Children, which recognizes Georgia’s top child advocates at its annual Big Voice for Children Awards event.

Athens-Clarke County has the highest poverty rate for any U.S. metro county. Nearly 80 percent of public school students there are from low-income families.

“Instead of an expectation of failure—that most of these kids are going to fail because they’re poor—we said, ‘no,’ ” said Johnson in a Big Voices honoree video. “If these kids are failing, it means the adults are failing—the school superintendent to the parent to the mayor. So we’re going to do whatever it takes in our community, neighborhood by neighborhood.”

As a measure to dismiss the expectation of failure, the Georgia Family Connection Collaborative launched OneAthens, the largest anti-poverty initiative ever undertaken in the county, which has grown into what Johnson describes as a huge community collaboration. Johnson also serves as executive director of Whatever It Takes, a community coalition that aims to make sure that by 2020 every child in the county graduates from high school prepared for post-secondary education or career.

The Collaborative helped found the Classic City Performance Learning Center, an alternative school for students who don’t fit traditional high school mold. One state study, according to Johnson, reported that the Performance Learning Center actually boosted the Clarke County high school graduation rate by 8 percent.

“We pull together all the organizations in Athens that care about children to work together, to look at data,” said Johnson, who has dedicated more than 20 years to serving children and families in the county. “What does data tell us is happening to kids? And how can we improve that data?”

Combining collaboration with data-driven decision-making appears to be working. In the past nine years the rate of Clarke County low-income students reading at or above grade level jumped from 57 to 90 percent.

The Collaborative, under Johnson’s leadership, also has aided in projects that helped reduce teen pregnancy and child abuse and neglect in the county. In 10 years child abuse and neglect dropped from 992 to 140 cases. The teen pregnancy rate among African-Americans fell 72 percent from 2002-2010.

“We’re proud of Tim and the Collaborative’s resolute commitment to do whatever it takes to ensure that children and families in Athens-Clarke will thrive,” said Gaye Smith, executive director of Georgia Family Connection Partnership. “The incredible work here that earned Tim the Big Voice Award is amplified in 158 other counties across Georgia. On any given day there’s a table in a county in our state where caring, concerned citizens are sitting down to grapple with the complex issues that challenge our children and families.”

Watch Tim Johnson’s 2012 Big Voice Award honoree video:

Read a related story in the Athens Banner-Herald.

Bill Valladares
GaFCP Communications Director
404-527-7394 (x114)

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